Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Reduce Spending without Sacrificing Lifestyle #3 - Take Advantage of Free

We've started tightening our belts in the My Wealth Builder household. Our target is to reduce our annual expenditures by 5% without any reduction in our current lifestyle. Our first idea was to eliminate waste , i.e. money that's spent on goods and services but not effectively used. Our second idea is to buy below the regular price. Our third idea is to take advantage of free offerings. Here are some specific approaches:

  • Government services. There are many government services provided for free, because they are already paid for by tax dollars. The best example is the public library. We have an excellent library system and the nearest branch is only 2 miles from our house. Besides having a broad selection of books, video and audio items, they periodically have educational programs which are free to the public.

    While I haven't investigated all the free government services, here are a few others of which I am aware. Our local parks have free access to trails, tennis courts, volleyball courts, basketball courts, and skateboard arenas. Many areas have community centers that provide free programs for children, with swimming having an extra fee. In our region, the municipalities will usually fill out a city tax return for taxpayers for free. Also, when we were adopting a child, we were able to get a $2000 grant from our county, which is even better than free.

  • Perks from work. Many companies provide benefits which enable employees to get benefits for free. My company rents a local amusement park for employees, retirees and families as a yearly benefit. Admission is free, which includes the rides, but we need to pay for refreshments and games. In addition, employees and retirees receive a Christmas basket every year.

    Many companies provide tuition reimbursement, which covers the full cost of tuition and fees at accredited schools. Other perks may include meals while working or adoption assistance.

    I've just applied for a job at a park where all the recreational activities, e.g. golf, boating, fishing, etc. are free for employees.

  • Promotions. Many of the local establishments have regular or periodic promotions with free food. My favorite is the weekly happy hour where the restaurant serves free food from their appetizer menu. Of course, the drinks aren't free, but are usually discounted.

    Another example are the free samples of products that are occasionally offered when shopping. Also, I like to get free gifts for doing tasks I already like to do, e.g. taking a test drive.

  • Gifts. When family asks me about potential gifts, I usually try to think of something that I will be using over the next year. My usual response is a bottle of my favorite liquor.
  • One approach we haven't tried is taking advantage of the "free" items on Craigslist or Freecycle. However, we will offer items we no longer need to family and friends. Recently, we gave our Windows 2000 computer to my father-in-law since he needed a DOS capable system. Also, we gave a friend several ink cartridges for an old printer which he could still use. Finally, we gave my sister several down comforters since we can't use them due to allergies in our family. In every case, people were appreciative of getting the item(s) for free.

    For more on The Practice of Personal Finance, check back every Wednesday for a new segment.

    This is not financial advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

    Copyright © 2009 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

    1 comment:

    Paula Wethington said...

    Now, if you don't know what free services are available in your community, then pay close attention to the local and entertainment sections of your newspapers. That's where you'll find a lot of that information.

    How do I know that? I work as a newspaper reporter on the "community page." Many of the local public service announcements and links I put on my blog are crossposts of notices that were sent to the newspaper!